Michael Simms: My debut novel is being launched tonight
Dear Vox Populi friends:
This evening the rap artist and filmmaker Christian Nowlin will be helping me launch my debut novel Bicycles of the Gods: A Divine Comedy. Imagine! I’m 68 years old, and something I’ve wanted my entire life is about to happen. The launch will begin at 6:45pmET at the White Whale Bookstore in Pittsburgh, and it will also be streamed online. Here’s the link to register for the free event in case you’d like to join Christian and me this evening:
A few of you have asked how I came to write this novel. During Covid, I had a lot of time on my hands, and one morning I woke with an image of two boys riding their bicycles up a hill that looks down on a large city. One boy, Xavi, dismounts and strikes a match, but the other boy, Jesse, stops him from setting fire to the dry brush. Right away I knew that these two boys were Shiva and Jesus, and this was the beginning of a story about the apocalypse.
Advance reviews of the novel have been extremely positive. Here’s what Thomas F. Dillingham says:
Following his two excellent volumes of poetry (American Ash and Nightjar), Michael Simms has given us an unusual “divine comedy,” featuring incarnations of Jesus and Shiva the Destroyer of Worlds as young boys traveling the earth on high-tech bicycles; a recovering addict, Stefan, reclusive poet and unhoused man who lives in a cave under a highway interchange, and an extensive cast of characters who supply exemplars or targets for the moral and satirical eyes of the narrator. The style at first seems light and fast-moving (hitch-hiking on those bikes), but we soon realize the depth and power of the critique of a human society potentially to be destroyed (again) at the behest of the “creator” (identity a matter of contention) because of his dissatisfaction with their frivolity, immorality, and destructive/pervasive greed. That is to say, there is nothing frivolous about this divine comedy, though it wields its satirical and moral pen lightly. At times, it reminds one of the 18th century subgenre, the “voyages to the moon,” exploited by various writers to express their disdain for the follies of their contemporaries, though few achieve the mastery of Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, or Pope’s Dunciad. This very contemporary novel is a worthy successor in that company, with occasional moments of whimsy reminiscent of Carroll’s Wonderland. I recommend it with enthusiasm.
As Professor Dillingham points out, the novel is a Swiftian satire that presumes to describe America as Jesus might see it, so I’ve been surprised that both Catholic and Protestant theologians have found merit, rather than offense, in the book. Reverend Doctor Moni McIntyre, for example, says:
A playful, provocative, and imaginative discursus, Bicycles of the Gods is an affront to racism, sexism, classism, ageism, and heterosexism as it posits a Divine who will not be captured and used by white supremacists for their own purposes. Michael Simms has created an engaging new world order that functions within our familiar one.
But the two readers whose praise I most coveted were that of Professor John Edward Simms of the University of St. Thomas, a brilliant theologian who happens to be my brother, and Jill C., my neighbor who cleans houses for a living. Both the learned professor and the no-nonsense housekeeper loved the book, so I already consider it a roaring success. As far as I know, the only person who hates the novel is an old friend of mine, a leftist who said that the end of the world is serious business, and I shouldn’t make people laugh about it; nor should I be writing books about Jesus visiting Los Angeles since all those rumors of His visit were never substantiated. Then, the old leftist went on to admit he hadn’t actually read my novel, but only looked at the cover.
In any case, I appreciate the attention you pay to the poets, essayists, musicians and filmmakers who contribute their work to Vox Populi.
Michael Simms is the founding editor of Vox Populi. His recent books include two collections of poems American Ash and Nightjar (Ragged Sky, 2020, 2021) and his debut novel Bicycles of the Gods: A Divine Comedy (Madville, 2022). He lives in the historic Mount Washington neighborhood of Pittsburgh, USA. Join Michael for the launch of his novel: